Harlem Improv Troupe Gets Almost Highfalutin After a Dozen Years


A few weeks ago, eating crappy apples backstage at NYU after Magik Markers’ autumn harvest meant catching the tail end of the No-Neck Blues Band’s Qvaris release party. Arriving at the Knitting Factory during a heavily percussive session was fine: Live, the Harlem crew does that tribal séancing best. On record, though, the more atrophied the better. Qvaris (linked to the mirrored Robert Smithson–style art that percussionist Dave Nuss told me was the “Qvaris Object at Dawn”) offers a melancholic improvisational big top, blending Sunburned Hand of the Man freedom-jazz with Wooden Wand psych-scat. A lengthy bout of chance percussion detracts from the magic curios, but the electro-sprinkled four-part “Qvaris” suite transmigrates drums, bells, and nobs into fetching ragbag permafrost. Armed with a creepy multidimensional sequined-eggplant video for “The Black Pope,” a promotional tour, and a full-on publicity push, Qvaris is the crew’s most highfalutin release of 12-plus years. Twits may gripe at the loss of the shadowy figures of Forced Exposures past who spray-painted vinyl-only releases and eschewed traditional club gigs, but the seminal posse still records at the communal Hint House, the carnival props are weirdo bacchanalian, and the cosmic references (here to Lovecraft, Dunsany, Yeats, etc.) remain enjoyably oblique. Oh, and the one guy’s beard has gotten really long.